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How to Plan Your First Trip to Austria’s Awesome Capital

Vienna is, in many ways, much like its most famous dessert, that chocolate brick known as the Sacher torte. Both the cake and the capital are densely rich, in a way very few pastries or cities are.

But although many a tourist in Austria has deemed Sacher torte a dry, overrated mouthful, Vienna never disappoints. It’s a city where history colors every corner, museums and churches are crammed with compelling masterpieces, and music seeps into streets from under the doors of centuries-old churches and concert halls.

When I last visited, I wondered how anyone makes a living here. It seemed like the entire population was gathering in the middle of the afternoon for boisterous conversations in coffeehouses, or reading aloud to children on the sidewalk beanbags set up by the city’s outdoor library program.

The empire Vienna once ruled has long been defunct, sure, but no one here seems to be letting that harsh their buzz. And the exuberance on the streets is infectious.

For visitors, a sense of obligation can chase away some of those joys. With so many important sights and experiences here, choosing which to focus on or, worse, trying to see too many in the course of a single day can drain the fun from a visit. 

My advice? Plan to return.

And do what the wise do to make Sacher torte more palatable: Add the sightseeing equivalent of a dollop of whipped cream to vary your itinerary day by day.

Here are some ideas for taking a satisfying bite of the city during a first visit.